Libri Dilectio: October 2010

12 October 2010

Book Review: Revolution

Revolution, Jennifer Donnelly
(Gr 9+)

Coming 12 October 2010 – That’s TODAY!
Delacorte Books for Young Readers. ARC from ALA.

Andi is a modern day teen, living in Brooklyn, and dealing with the death of her brother. Alex is a girl who lived during the height of the French Revolution and was close to the royal family of Louis XVI. When Andi finds Alex’s journal she feels a deep connection to the girl who lived two centuries before. The further she digs into Alex’s story, the more she realizes it’s implications on the modern day interpretation of the Revolution. As Andi struggles to deal with her own demons, she also takes on those of Alex, which just might be more than she can bear.

This is mostly Andi’s story, but it’s told in both girl’s voices. Andi is struggling in school and in life when her mostly absent father steps in to take her away for her winter break. He believes that getting her out of Brooklyn, away from the memories of what happened to her brother and taking care of her deeply depressed mother, will help Andi focus on not failing out of school. Her father, a Nobel prize winning geneticist, has been invited to Paris by a family friend to solve a centuries old mystery. A mystery that, Andi soon learns, Alex was intimately connected to.

I love historical novels that introduce new elements of history to me. A main thread of this story involves the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Louis-Charles. I knew that he died during the Revolution, but I wasn’t fully aware of the details. The novel presents them in a way that fascinated me and I had to know if the story was true. Upon further research, I realized that, yes, the story of Louis-Charles is based on historical fact! Hopefully, teens who read this book will be equally interested and moved to further research.

This book, though a little on the long side, was engrossing and fascinating. I loved that Andi and Alex’s voices were so similar and yet different enough that I did know which was which. I really felt the connection between the two young women. Andi kept saying that things happened because Alex wanted them to. She could feel the long dead girl leading her through Paris and forcing her to read on in her story.

Another very interesting aspect of this novel is it’s emphasis on the evolution of music. Andi is writing a thesis on the influence an historical French composer had on modern musicians. She frequently makes reference to musicians, their songs, and the composers whose influence can be heard in them. It made me want to go listen to the music she talked about and hear it for myself. Teenagers will love the nod to their favorite bands and, hopefully, will want to listen to the classical composers who influenced their songs.

This novel was an interesting mash up of historical fiction and realistic fiction, with just a splash of magical realism. I really couldn’t put it down. This would be a great novel for a high school student to read in concurrence with a study of the French Revolution. I think it would make the history come alive for them. Revolution comes out TODAY, so head out and pick up a copy right now…now…seriously…now.

11 October 2010

Book Review: The Iron Daughter

The Iron Daughter, Julie Kagawa
(Gr 9+)
Harlequin, August 2010. Reviewed from purchased copy.

Meghan Chase has never really fit in anywhere. Half faery princess and half human, Meghan is forgotten in the real world and not entirely welcome in the world of the fey. Now she’s lost the one person who made her feel like she belonged, the Winter prince Ash has turned away from her. Now she has to fulfill her end of a faery bargain and turn herself over as a prisoner to the Winter Queen. As the war between winter and summer intensifies, Meghan finds herself caught in the middle. She knows that the real enemy are the Iron Fey who would destroy all of Summer and Winter to rule the faery world with a (literal) iron fist. No one else in either world, except for the prince who once loved her, knows about the Iron Fey and no one will believe her. 

We were introduced to Meghan in The Iron King when she first entered the Nevernever (faery land) to save her kidnapped brother, Ethan. She was helped by her friend Robbie, who turned out to be the immortal faery, Puck and Ash, the prince of the Winter Realm. She made a deal with Ash that if he helped her find her brother, she would return with him to Winter as his prisoner. Now, with Ethan safe at home, Meghan has to fulfill her end of the bargain.

I am super in love with this series. It honestly reminded me (only a little) of The Chronicles of Narnia. It was probably the fact that Meghan first entered the Nevernever through a closet and a lot of the elements of the magical realm remind me of Narnia. That’s probably why I was initially drawn to it. I love when books make me feel like a kid while I read them! It means that I can completely lose myself in the story and wish that adventures like that could happen. My parents have an old wardrobe that I used to wish would open up and show me a magical world…instead of my dad’s sweaters. No such luck though. Any story that reminds me of that feeling is a-okay in my book.

Early in the story, Ash tells Meghan that, for her own safety, once they reach the Winter Court he has to pretend to not care about her at all. He knows that if the Court knew about their feelings for each other, they would kill them both. Meghan says she understands, but as soon as they get there and he starts the ignoring, she freaks! She spends a huge chunk of the story feeling like he really doesn’t love her anymore and that he wouldn’t care if she died. What the what?! Meghan, get your ears cleaned out! He told you he loves you, but that he couldn’t show it and you said you agreed! Yeesh. I kind of wanted to smack her around a little bit, but I restrained myself, mostly because she’s fictitious.

This is a great series. It’s filled to the brim with adventure, romance, and imagination. I can find elements of many childhood favorites in here, like The Chronicles of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland. Unfortunately, I feel really spoiled that I got to read the first two books so close together. It’s making the wait for the third book, The Iron Queen, which doesn’t come out until February, much harder. If you haven’t read this series, what are you waiting for? Seriously! They are lots of fun and, trust me, they will transport your imagination into a world of adventures. Check the library or the bookstore for Julie Kagawa’s awesome series, you’ll know them by their super fab covers.

06 October 2010

Guest Book Review: I Shall Wear Midnight

Today, I’m hosting a very special guest reviewer here at Libri Dilectio…my DAD! He’s a longtime fan of Terry Pratchett, so when an ARC of Pratchett’s newest title for teens came my way, I sent it on to him. Here it is readers, Mark Daniel’s review of I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett – enjoy!

I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett
(Gr 7+)
HarperCollins. September 2010. Reviewed from ARC picked up by co-worker at ALA.
Synopsis from Amazon:
“It starts with whispers.

Then someone picks up a stone.
Finally, the fires begin.

When people turn on witches, the innocents suffer. . . .

Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren’t sparkly, aren’t fun, don’t involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy.

But someone—or something—is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Aided by her tiny blue allies, the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must find the source of this unrest and defeat the evil at its root—before it takes her life. Because if Tiffany falls, the whole Chalk falls with her.

Chilling drama combines with laughout-loud humor and searing insight as beloved and bestselling author Terry Pratchett tells the high-stakes story of a young witch who stands in the gap between good and evil.”

As those who have read Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels already know, witch-work can be very hard. Witches aren’t very magical in the sense that they turn people into frogs (What do you do with all the physical mass that used to be a person, but can’t fit into a frog? The solution isn’t very pretty.), but they are very special.

Tiffany, now sixteen (or close to it) was first introduced to readers in Wee Free Men, where she, at the age of eight, fought off a river monster with a frying pan and battled the Queen of the Faeries with the help of the Nac Mac Feegle, a tribe of little blue men who resemble the worst (and the best) that Scotland has to offer, and won. In A Hat Full Of Sky, Tiffany fought off a hiver, an invisible entity that absorbs your personality and lives your life for you, turning you into a rather nasty, hateful person until you die rather prematurely. In the third book, she nearly turns the discworld into an iceworld by dancing with the Wintersmith (everyone makes mistakes), but in I Shall Wear Midnight, the latest book from Terry Pratchett, there are no special monsters, no amazing magical creatures to overcome; just the evil that lives in mankind.

Pratchett has created a truly transitional book for his farewell to the Tiffany Aching series. Tiffany is grown up and her problems are those that the reader may also face one day. Tiffany, having returned to her home (The Chalk Hills) from training with the older witches takes on the responsibilities of being the local witch. Yes, she cares for the sick and dying, but she is also faced with new adult-centered issues.

Tiffany is challenged by how to help an abusive father who beats his daughter so badly that she loses her unborn child. She has to face the reality of her social status (how can a poor witch-girl ever hope to have a real relationship with the son of the local Baron). But worst of all, she has become known to an ancient evil, a spirit of pure hatred that is insane and utterly relentless. It finds a home with ignorance and fools. “Poison goes where poison’s welcome.” It wants to destroy Tiffany and, through her, all witches of the Discworld. The other witches offer to help, but this is Tiffany’s battle. Tiffany and the other witches understand that, as a witch, Tiffany’s problems are hers to solve. If she accepts help, she’s probably not really a witch at all. Even the ever present Nac Mac Feegle can’t help her now.

Pratchett is a master of weaving life lessons into a gripping story. The evil Tiffany faces is very much like the ignorance and hatred that is spread with lightening speed today across sections of the internet and from pundits on cable TV. Tiffany chooses to battle ignorance and hatred directly, which is truly the only way to do it. You can’t wait out ignorance to simply go away. Ignorance and hatred are immortal.

As Tiffany faces her final confrontation with evil, she worries that there is more that she should have done to prepare, to which a more senior witch advises her, ”There are times when everything that you can do has been done and there’s nothing for it now but to curl up and wait for the thunder to die down.”

Tiffany is a wonderful character that should appeal to both girls and boys, but mainly girls. Pratchett’s female characters are smarter, calmer, more sensible and ultimately braver in spirit than his male characters who typically face adversity with a burning desire for a quick visit to the pub.

This is NOT the book to read if you have not yet read a Tiffany Aching novel before. Pick up Wee Free Men and start from the beginning. A lot of the fun is to watch Tiffany grow into her chosen profession. Even those who are familiar with the witches of the Discworld (Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and the rest who make appearances in each of the Tiffany Aching books) will miss out if they don’t start from the beginning.

Finally, as a guest reviewer for Libri Dilectio, I should add that I recently read aloud a quote from Wee Free Men at the wedding reception of this blog’s main author (who also just happens, by strange coincidence, to be my daughter). It was some advice that Miss Tick, Tiffany’s first witch advisor, gave her on one of their first meetings:

“If you trust in yourself and believe in your dreams and follow your star, you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.”

The Honeymoon’s over, kid. Get back to work and find us more great books!

05 October 2010

Book Review: Jane

Jane, April Lindner
(Gr 9+)

Coming 11 October 2010
Poppy. ARC provided by publisher.

Jane Moore has just lost her parents. With no one to turn to and no money to stay in school, she must leave Sarah Lawrence, and take a job as a nanny. Since she’s a rather unconventional young woman, uninterested in pop culture, she is sent to work for one of the world’s biggest rock stars, Nico Rathburn. Jane is serious and pragmatic, but, immediately drawn to her new employer, she falls deeply in love with him. However, there is a dark secret hidden within the walls of Thornfield Park, one that could destroy their love forever.

I have to start by saying that Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is my all time, uncontested favorite book. I read it for the first time in 7th grade and I was completely obsessed with the characters, the story, the setting, everything! When my husband and I were still dating, I made him read it and discuss it with me. We even had a passage from it read at our wedding! Jane Eyre is my super duper favorite book EVER! Yes, that means I have a predisposition to like April Lindner’s Jane.

Okay, now that you know my mind set starting this book you can judge for yourself why I liked it. I raced through the story, excited to see how my favorite characters would be portrayed. Yes, that means nothing was a surprise, but I didn’t care. This is a great re-telling of the best story ever ever ever (I know, that’s just my opinion, but I bet some of you agree). No, of course it isn’t as good as the original, and yes, I’d obviously rather read that than this, but I love April Lindner for finding a way to bring Jane Eyre to the attention of new readers. Jasper Fforde did it with The Eyre Affair (another fun book for super fans like me), and now Lindner has done it in a more straight forward way that teen girls will gobble up.

I was skeptical at first when I read that Mr. Rochester was going to be a rock star in this version of the story, but it actually worked really well. His dark, arrogance really translates to musician! He was portrayed in a way that you could see the original character, but Nico Rathburn felt like a new man. The same can be said of Jane herself. She still felt very true to the original heroine, while still having a new, modern woman holding all her earnest, serious, wonderfulness.

This book will hopefully bring new readers to the original and give super fans a new way to experience their favorite characters. Teenage girls will love this dark Cinderella story and I’d bet some adults will be drawn to it as well. Look for Jane on shelves next week!

04 October 2010

Book Review: Beautiful Darkness

Beautiful Darkness, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
(Gr 9+)

Coming 12 October 2010
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. ARC provided by publisher.

Ethan Wate always thought of Gatlin as a slow, sleepy Southern town where nothing ever happened, until he met Lena. Lena showed him a new world buried right beneath his every day life – a world full of magic, danger, and love. Ethan and Lena have already fought for their relationship against strong evil and he thought they’d won, but at a price. Lena has lost her uncle, the man who was the most important person in her life. Now she’s pulling away from Ethan and acting less and less like the girl he knows, the girl he loves. Ethan finds himself pulled deeper into the world of the Casters, a world he isn’t sure he belongs in, and one that Lena may not want him in anymore.

Readers made their first trip to Gatlin in last year’s Beautiful Creatures. The novel that introduced us to Ethan, Lena, and the magical world of the Casters.  Ethan and Lena were drawn to each other and could communicate with each other in ways that had never linked Casters and mortals before. They fought for their impossible love and now we find them on the other side of that battle, with new scars that are still healing.

This novel is again told from Ethan’s perspective. He is an open and honest character who is easy to care about. Lena is less easy to know for a reader. I had trouble getting a hold of her personality, but I’m pretty sure, based on the fact that Ethan had no idea what was going on with her either, that that was the point! I found myself worrying about Lena, not because I really cared about her myself, but because Ethan did.

The setting of the novel remains my absolute favorite thing about it. Gatlin is a sleepy, hot Southern town where everyone is in everyone else’s business, but hiding just beneath this Christian moral social hierarchy, there is a dark world of tunnels, magic, and evil. In this book we get to spend more time in the Caster tunnels and really get a feel for just how huge this world is, and how dangerous. There were a few moments when the action lagged a little, but the setting kept me interested in the story.

The best best best part about this book was finally getting Macon Ravenwood’s back story! He is such an interesting character and I loved learning more about his family and their curse. There is a part that revealed something so jaw dropping, that I actually closed the book and shouted “WHAT the WHAT?!?!” (seriously, ARC pg. 262. Get ready for it!).

Overall this is still a great story with interesting characters and a fantabulous setting. My only complaint is that there were several parts where the action really dragged. I would get all excited and worked up only to have the plot get super slow for a long time before I got excited again. Also, there were a few too many easy fix moments. Ethan and his gang kept getting into these impossible scrapes only to have someone surprisingly swoop in to save the day. I mean, no, I didn’t want him to die, but I wanted him to get out of trouble a little more on his own steam. With that being said though, yes, I would recommend this to fans of dark fantasy and think that readers who enjoyed Beautiful Creatures will be very happy to have this book in their hands. I can’t wait to see how this story ends!

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